You really have to love Carol and Steve Ide. They are phenomenal human beings. They are both wonderful musicians who have played with the likes of Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie as well as in the legendary Berkshire bands Boogity Shoe and Shenandoah. The first time I heard them in a band was with Arlo on the record, "Precious Friend." There's a wonderful line in which Pete says something like, "Come on men and Carol too." She was playing the washboard and got a tremendous hand for her single bell solo.
Carol teaches in the Southern Berkshire School District and has just been honored with one of the most important awards available to any teacher. The Berkshire County Educator Recognition Award goes to the very top teachers in Berkshire County. Carol took the top honor in her area of elementary education.
One after another, her colleagues checked in offering superb accolades. I suspect what her colleagues said meant even more to her than the prestigious award from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts committee. If there is a single thing that Carol believes it is that teachers should support each other and that she is just one among many. That is exactly what the MCLA group wants to achieve, honoring all dedicated teachers.
Carol's humility is stunning. E. Bonnie Silvers, the vice chairwoman of the Southern Berkshire School Committee and a superb educator herself, told me, "Carol Ide is a good example of why we are all so proud of our school district. It is small but it really does have some of the best teachers in the county. We are all so proud of Carol."
Carol studied elementary education at Rider College in New Jersey near Princeton. She said that her education at Rider, a small but important building block in her career, was important. I asked Carol what she liked best about teaching. She told me that by the third grade most of her children had learned how to read. Discussing good literature and getting them excited about reading was exhilarating. I have always believed that good teaching is one of the most important professions in our country. Good teachers like Carol put extraordinary amounts of time into preparation, grading and creating individual goals for their students. We have all had teachers who have made all the difference in our lives. Teachers work incredibly hard for the little money they get.
Douglas McNally, the coordinator of the Berkshire Readiness Center and the convener of the awarding committee, said, "We had an excellent set of candidates recommended for all three levels, early education, elementary education and secondary education. The committee considered these applicants and found three educators who are exemplary in their dedication, not only to teaching but to being lifelong learners and who see their roles going beyond the classroom. In the case of Carol Ide, her extension into music and environmental education and being aware of the joy of learning to everyone who came in touch with, her set her apart from the others."
MCLA President Mary Grant, who conceived this wonderful program, told me, "The committee did a spectacular job in identifying and recommending these educators of the year. This is the third year of the award."
Grant said that teachers deserved and needed this honor because they are "changing lives and shaping the future and we need to recognize and celebrate the work that they do." She made it clear that teachers are sometimes under-appreciated, and we fail to recognize how complicated it all is. "Teaching is not about quick fixes."
Every once in a while someone gets the recognition they deserve. In 2009, Steve was named the "Best Guitar Player in Berkshire County." Now Carol is being honored for her extraordinary work. It makes me feel good.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.